Even in ancient times, geese were fattened by stuffing them with figs, resulting in plenty of fat beneath their skin and a substantial liver enlargement. But why do we celebrate St. Martin’s Day and why do we eat goose?
Saint Martin was born in Savaria, in present-day Szombathely, Hungary, in 316 AD, and died on November 8, 397 AD. Three days later, on November 11, he was buried in Tours. According to the legend, due to miraculous events attributed to him, he was already highly respected during his lifetime. However, being a humble man, when messengers came to announce his election as bishop, hid in a pen of geese whose cackling gave him away. Not only did Martin have to face the consequences of the honking, but geese also became a main dish on the festive table for betraying the saint.
Interestingly, it was a tradition on St. Martin’s Day to send a portion of goose meat, especially from the rear part, to the priest, giving rise to the expression “bishop’s morsel.”
Now that we know why we eat on November 11th, let’s gather some facts about geese that you may not be aware of:
- When they hatch from the egg, they are attracted to the first moving stimulus, whether it’s a goose, a person, or an object.
- They are very loyal, choosing a mate for life, protecting their partner and offspring.
- Geese belong to the group of birds that intensely brood. Modern breeds can lay up to 50 eggs per year, while their ancestor, the wild goose, would lay on average 4-6 eggs. They stick to their familiar nests, and peace and quiet are crucial during this time. Some geese may brood several times a year: in early spring, summer, and possibly in the fall. The incubation period is 28-30 days.
- They are social and empathetic animals. If a goose falls ill or is injured, its companions help and protect it. When they lose their partner or eggs, they exhibit signs of mourning. If raised among other livestock, they generally get along well with them.
- Unlike other poultry species, geese have no crop. The lower part of the esophagus is slightly dilated, allowing the feed to enter the glandular stomach almost without preparation, from where it gradually moves to the muscular stomach.
- They have a robust beak equipped with a sharp bill nail, enabling them to nip even the shortest grass. They can consume 1-2 kg of greens daily. However, grazing alone does not provide sufficient nutrients for them.
- Although geese are waterfowl and their bodies are well adapted to aquatic life, they are not good swimmers. They prefer not to stay in deep water for an extended period and mainly use water for bathing and drinking.
- Migratory geese always fly in a “V” formation, minimizing air resistance and allowing for approximately 71% greater flying distance. When the leading goose tires, another goose takes over, allowing the first one to rest. During migration, they navigate using geographical features and celestial bodies.
- The wild goose breeds in Hungary during the summer, while the bean goose and the greater white-fronted goose arrive in the fall, forming large flocks to winter here. All three species of wild geese are hunted, so any of them could end up on the gourmet’s table on St. Martin’s day.”